March 31 – Scent of Jasmine

by Khadijah Lacina

A few days ago Mujaahid called me from Yemen. It was the second time I’ve spoken to him since our return to America, and I admit I had trouble speaking through the lump that filled my throat. I talked to little Suhayb, and heard baby Yasmeen in the background. It made my heart ache to feel the distance that separates our worlds now. I wanted to share with you the story of baby Yasmeen, to try to bring her and her family just a little bit closer…

On September 27, a new little person entered the world. My eldest son, Mujaahid, and his wife, Hiyaat, had a baby girl. She was delivered at home, with a midwife and Hiyaat’s mother present, and by all accounts was a big baby. She was born with a caul- in Islaam this doesn’t have any special significance, but I can imagine that my Bohemian grandmother, and my Irish grandmother, would have a few things to say about it. They named her Yasmeen, which is the source of the English word, Jasmine. I pray that she will both spread joy and goodness like the fragrance of her namesake, and that she will find the world to be sweet and scented in the same way.

I wasn’t there for the birth, just as I was not there for Suhayb’s birth, making this a bittersweet time, one which brings home forcefully the reality of distance unrolling over desert and mountain, of time spent apart and the choices which led to this separation.

The first choice, I suppose, was when we sent Mujaahid to study in the village a few months before we ourselves were going to make that transition. He would call every week, his voice sounding small and far away and tearing at my heart-strings. He would assure me that he was fine, and was studying hard, and that everything was alright.

The second choice was when, a couple of years later, he decided to marry and to build his house attached to his wife’s house across the valley. Automatically he became a part of their life, while stepping out of ours in a major way. His brothers and sisters felt the distance at that time; perhaps it was for the best because when we left the village a year or so later due to my continuing illness, he didn’t even consider coming with us.

That was the next choice, and it was both ours, to leave, and his, to not join us. It was so difficult leaving the village. I had teachers there that I loved and respected, I loved learning about Islaam and attending classes and lectures, and the village itself had found a deep and abiding place in my heart. And, of course, as we were bumping off in the pre-dawn darkness over the trackless mountains that surrounded the village, my heart felt like it was being physically ripped in two as part of it stayed with Mujaahid.

I don’t have any photos of Mujaahid as a baby, but last year, when I was able to see his son, Suhayb, for the first time, I immediately saw the shadow of my little blond boy in his face. It made parting with them after a month even tougher, bringing home truth of the saying that when we choose to have a child, we choose to allow a part of our hearts to walk around outside our bodies for the rest of our lives.

Now time, and distance, and political upheaval have made our lives in this beautiful land more uncertain than before. When I think that I may never see Yasmeen, or Suhayb, or Mujaahid and Hiyaat again, I feel an intense sense of loss, and sadness, and a wish that I could somehow change things, while knowing that I cannot. Too much time, too much distance, too many choices made that led us to where we are now.

But I know that even while a part of my heart is with them in their mountain village, a part of them remains, and will always remain, within my chest, as close as the air I breathe. And sometimes, that is all you can ask for.

Khadijah Lacina has recently returned to the States after almost ten years living in Yemen. While trying to get over her culture shock, she spends her time homeschooling, writing, knitting, crocheting, playing in the dirt trying to grow things, and messing around with herbs.

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7 responses to “March 31 – Scent of Jasmine

  1. Oh Khadijah, this brought me to tears. The story, so bittersweet, is beautifully written. You are strong in ways many of us can only imagine. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us.

  2. Lovely, Khadijah; just lovely. It must be so hard to be apart from children and grandchildren, but we are grateful you are here, writing, and safe.

  3. One does not know the blessings Allah has planned for us. While you will not see your son or grandchildren in the near future, you may be reunited with them yet in this life. It still hurts, though. I know.

    “With every difficulty, there is relief.”

  4. Your skill with words astounds me, Khadijah. All we mothers know, or can imagine, the pain of separation from our children and grandchildren, but few of us can put it into words. You have done that for us here. My heart aches with yours, and at the same time it is saying, “Thank you for telling it like it is.” My father pointed out to me that his grandparents and their siblings and cousins all experienced it when their children emigrated from Europe to the United States, in many cases never to be reunited. Before that I hadn’t thought about how many families, how many parents, have known this wrenching. I hope you are able to maintain contact and look forward to the day when you will see them again, Insha’Allah.

  5. Thank you for posting this. I have written so many times of my separation from my pregnant 16 year old daughter less than a year after my eldest daughter’s accident. It is still so raw, though my beautiful daughter has a super beautiful son. He is the apple of grandma’s eye for sure. Four years later, we have all survived it and seem to be thriving. Could it be better? of course. Are we closer in more ways than distance? for certain. I just have to keep thinking that is the way it is supposed to be, or it would not be. There is some comfort in that.
    Your story touched me and I feel so fortunate that you shared it on ONE WOMAN’S DAY. ;D

  6. Thank you, ladies, for your comments, they mean so much to me. I’m still struggling to find my place here in America, and I think that writing is going to play a big part in that. It does help to share my stories with you, and to listed to what you all share back.

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